Posts tagged ‘J’onn J’onzz’

Detective 500 – 4 Batman stories, two of them team-ups, scads of detectives, and Elongated Man and Hawkman end


Many anniversary issue build themselves up as being something really special, but few live up to their promise.  Detective 500 (March 1981) is one of the rare ones.  It’s not all gold, but enough of it is.


The first story, by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, bring us to a parallel world, where a new Batman is about to be born.


The Phantom Stranger brings Batman and Robin to this world, seemingly so that Bruce will have the opportunity to prevent his parents’ deaths.


They find this world similar, but different.  James Gordon is still just a lieutenant, and Barbara , though a librabrian, is his fiancee, not his daughter.  Bruce is hunting for information on Joe Chill, while Dick discovers that this is a world with no heroic legends, no caped heroes, nothing to inspire heroism.


Observing the Waynes, we see that Bruce is hardly a baby hero, more like a rich spoiled brat, but Batman is blind to this.


Batman’s pursuit of Joe Chill, who on this world is not even from Gotham, and just arriving in the city, brings him into conflict with Gordon, but Batman manages to convince him that they are friends on another world.


His search for Chill has raised such flags that the man is murdered by the Gotham mobs.  Batman learns that the planned murder of the Waynes is happening sooner than he expected – he had not counted the extra days from leap years.


Robin, who has been watching the Waynes, sees the murder about to occur, and struggles within himself, thinking that is might be meant to be; but Batman swoops in saves the day, his parents, and himself.


The Phantom Stranger takes the heroes back to their own world, and they are left to wonder what will become of Bruce, but the reader gets to see the impact the attempted murder had, and that even with his parents alive, young Bruce is on the road to becoming Batman.

Sadly, this is not a parallel world we ever visit again.


Slam Bradley gets the billing, but this story, a re-write of a Batman tale from the 40s, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, is pretty much a free for all with a vast line-up of detectives.

They are all at a celebration for an older detective, who gets murdered in front of them.


The original version of this story has Batman working with a number of detective based on famous fictional ones from the era.  This story brings Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target and Roy Raymond together on the case.

For Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith and Slam Bradley, this the first time the character appeared since the end of their own series.


There are leads in a number of directions, which allow the detectives to split up and pursue them in smaller groups.  The story gives everyone at least one moment to shine, and they wind up stopping a number of bad guys.


Slam suspects there is more to the case, and it’s Roy Raymond who provides the real solution, that this was an elaborate suicide, designed to prompt the men to tidy up some hanging cases of his.


Jason Bard and the Human Target both return in the pages of Detective within the next couple of years, while Roy Raymond pops up in DC Comics Presents.  Many of the rest have their next, and final, appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Slam Bradley returns a little after Crisis, returning to the pages of Detective for one story.


The next story in the issue is a wonderful 2-pager, by Len Wein and Walt Simonson, that uses Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” as it’s text.  Clever, and visually gorgeous.


The Elongated Man gets his final solo story in this book, by Mike W Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  As well as being a decent mystery story on its own, it delves into the facts around the death of Edgar Allen Poe.


Chiefly, the identity of the mysterious “Reynolds” that Poe called out for shortly before dying.  The story has to do with a letter explaining who Reynolds was, and leading to an unpublished magazine by Poe.


Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, and Ralph and Sue are always fun to read about.


One of his best mysteries, this is also the Elongated Man’s last solo story until his miniseries in the 90s.


On the downside of the issue, there is this text story by Walter Gibson, with some scattered art by Tom Yeates.  I recall reading this as a kid, but not finding it particularly memorable.  And I dislike text stories like this in comics.  If I’m going to read a book, I’ll read a book.  I read comics for the visuals.


Hawkman also has his last solo story in Detective in this issue.  Well, kind of a solo, really he and Hawkgirl get equal roles.


Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert helm this tale, that sees Katar and Shayera trying to solve the mystery of the death of a scientist many years earlier.


There’s some great Kubert art, and the story itself is not bad, but it’s a bit of a tease.


At the end, Hawkman reveals that the scientist whose death they were investigating was Dr. Erdel, who had died after bringing the Martian Manhunter to Earth.  J’onn had blamed himself, and Hawkman wanted proof that it was not J’onn’s fault.

Hawkman’s next solo outing is the Shadow War of Hawkman miniseries.


The final story in this issue was also a let-down to me.  Even moreso, as it’s a Batman/Deadman team-up, and those had been above average stories, on the whole.  But Carmine Infantino’s art is not what it was, and Cary Bates’ story doesn’t help much either.


Pursuing some criminals, Batman gets killed.  Sort of.  Almost dead.  Robin is really stressed, but Deadman shows up and decides to inhabit Batman’s body to bring his killers to justice.


Oops, someone spilled a plate of scrambled eggs on the comic.  Oh, wait, that’s Infantino’s art for showing Batman and Deadman conversing on the astral plane.


Deadman moves Batman around and catches the bad guys, and doing so ignites the spark that brings him back to life.  A shame this story closed the issue.  It would have done less damage buried in the middle.

Detective 326 – Batman in an alien zoo, and Martian Manhunter ends


Batman and Robin become performers in an alien zoo in the Sheldon Moldoff tale from Detective 326 (April 1964).


They get rounded up by aliens who do not distinguish them from the other Earth animals they are gathering.


Once in the zoo, they become star performers.  Much of the entertainment value in this story is meant to be derived from watching Batman and Robin perform silly stunts for the amusement of goofy looking aliens.


Eventually they prove their intelligence, and are recognized as sentient beings, and sent back home.


The Martian Manhunter’s series comes to a close with this issue, which sees some huge changes to the series before it switches books.


The Idol Head of Diabolu is introduced, and emits its first monstrous effects, a destructive gas cloud, and it also makes a man emit energy beams from his eyes.


J’onn frantically tries to deal with both threats, both as the Manhunter, with Zook in tow, and as policeman John Jones, working with Diane Meade.


The police see the cloud descend on John Jones, who survives it, but uses the situation to fake the death of his human identity.


J’onn gets the eye beam man and cloud together, and they neutralize each other.  But he joins Diane and Zook for the funeral of John Jones.

The series moves to become the cover feature of House of Mystery, bringing Zook and the Idol Head with it.  Diane is left to mourn her former partner in ignorance of his actual survival.

Detective 322 – Robin and Bat-Girl save Batman, and the Martian Manhunter vs Arnold Hugo


Bat-Girl Betty Kane makes her first appearance in this book, after a number of appearances in the pages of Batman.  Detective 322 (Dec. 63) gives her and Robin the starring roles in this Sheldon Moldoff story.


The story involves a formula that turns a person into a genie until they fulfill three wishes, and Batman is the one to get doused with it.


The criminals try to use him to commit thefts, but Robin and Bat-Girl race around preventing this.


A silly tale by any standards, this is a sign of how low the series had fallen.


Arnold Hugo returns in this story, having his first battle with the Martian Manhunter.


Alerted by Batman, J’onn goes after Hugo, but falls prey to a machine he invents that siphons off part of J’onn’s powers.


J’onn figures out that it also would have siphoned off some of his weakness to fire, and gets Zook to heat up and weaken Hugo enough to be beaten.  Batman cameos in the final panel.

Arnold Hugo returns to face J’onn again after his series moves to House of Mystery.

Detective 312 – The Clayface Batman, and the Martian Manhunter gets a sidekick


Clayface is back again for his third round with Batman and Robin in Detective 312 (Feb. 63).  Matt Hagen once again escapes from prison and recharges his powers from his secret pool in this Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff story.


At first, Hagen uses his powers to impersonate Batman, entering banks and warning people to leave immediately, and then looting.  But Batman catches him at this, and Hagen flees.


Batman stops another scheme, in which he makes himself appear to be a work of art to gain access to a vault, but manages to follow him back to his pool when he goes to recharge.


In their fight, Batman falls in, and becomes a Clayface creature himself, leading to the big climactic, shape-changing battle.


Which ends when Batman, as a tree, punches Clayface in the head.  A bit of a let down.

Clayface returns in a few months in the pages of Batman.


Zook is much more in focus in this Martian Manhunter story.  J’onn keeps the creature in a cave, from which he keeps escaping, wanting to get in on the action.


Zook, who can turn red and radiate heat when stressed, messes up one of J’onn’s plans, barging in when he mistakenly thinks J’onn is in danger.


When he escapes a second time, he runs into Diane Meade, who brings him to the station, where he encounters J’onn in his John Jones identity.


But in the end, Zook winds up using his heat powers to melt a cube J’onn is trapped in by some bad guys, which convinces him the creature could be his sidekick, and doesn’t need to spend the rest of it’s life alone in a cave.

Detective 311 – Cat-Man debuts, and the Martian Manhunter fights off an alien invasion


Cat-Man makes his debut in Detective 311 (Jan. 63), in a story by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney.


Thomas Blake is introduced as a member of the same social club as Bruce Wayne, having just returned from a sojourn in Africa.  Parallels are drawn between the lives of Wayne and Blake, just as in the introductory story of the Cavalier.


Bored, Blake decides to turn to a life of crime, and names himself Cat-Man, after his hunting interests, as well as in honour of Catwoman, referred to in this story as “reformed.”


When he comes into confrontation with Batwoman, Blake immediately starts trying to romance her, but she rebuffs him.


A few rounds with Batman, a giant, robotic cat, and Cat-Man appears to die by drowning, but the story as much as tells us he will be back.

In hindsight, this story introduces three of the concepts that later Cat-Man stories will build on – his parallels with Batman, his romance with Batwoman, and the nine lives idea, casually floated in conversation in this issue.


Two alien criminals come through a really funky space warp to Earth, pursued by an alien bounty hunter, and little alien creature called Zook.  J’onn gets caught in the middle of the whole thing.


Zook, although he will stick around, is really a peripheral character for much of this story, which centres on the lawmen and the chase.


The trip they take back to their planet is certainly the most vibrant scene this series has had.


As I mentioned, Zook stays behind, sort of adopted by the Martian Manhunter.  Diane Meade also gets to know the creature, which becomes important in the following issue.

Detective 301 – Radioactive Batman, and J’onn J’onzz returns to Mars


Another Batman story that I am including solely because of the back-up tale, this Sheldon Moldoff piece from Detective 301 (March 1962) sees Batman sealed in a plastic jar.


An accident at a factory making synthritc gems leaves Batman vibrantly coloured, and incapable of surviving in out air.  He also emits deadly heat and radiation.


He starts fighting crime from a bubble craft with robotic arms, which is kind of fun for a few pages.


Eventually,in pursuit of some criminals, he winds up fried by a power line, which simply drains the deadly energy from him.  And the colour.  Although the colour fades more slowly than the power, allowing a final scene where the villains think he is still a danger to them, and give up.


J’onn returns to Mars in this story.  A band of Martians attack Earth,stealing radium, and John is unable to change and go after them because Diane Meade is there. A scientist goes missing, and John tracks him, and the Martians, and realizes that the scientist has managed to rebuild Erdel’s teleportation machine.


J’onn follows them to Mars, and is re-united with his parents and little brother.


He has little time for reunions, though, as he winds up tracking the rogue Martians and renegade scientist, defeating them.  The scientist gets injured during the fight, and winds up with no memory of his time on Mars.


J’onn bids his parents and brother farewell, and returns to Earth.  Why he wants to return isn’t explained beyond bringing back the scientist, but I would theorize he grew to enjoy the time away from his family.  We saw no other connections of his on Mars aside from them.

Detective 287 – Batman vs the Raven and the Wasp, Roy Raymond hunts for an heir to the throne, and J’onn’s little brother comes to visit


Detective 287 (Jan. 6) features two new villains, neither of whom was ever seen again, the Raven and the Wasp.  Created by Sheldon Moldoff, I suppose their costumes are meant to evoke the animals they have named themselves for, but they don’t succeed, at least not for me.


Both are escaped felons, and both are out to steal various mechanical inventions.  Batman and Robin defeat the Wasp, and Batman takes his place.


He discovers that both villains are working for some aliens, stealing the devices they require to build a mind-control machine.


Bathound makes an appearance in the story, but isn’t used well.  He’s just sort of there for the final battle.  Batman uses the mind-control device on the aliens, sending them back to their home planet.


Some really nice Ruben Moreira art on this Roy Raymond story.  Roy is asked to help the search for a missing heir to the throne in an eastern country.  The heir has a device that will create the image of the grand vizier, and Roy is asked to help weed out the fakes.


Eventually, one of the claimants produces the effect the desired way, and is proclaimed the heir, but Roy is still wary.


Roy proves that the real heir was kidnapped, and the device taken from him.  The men who invited Roy over were using him to cover their own deception and impersonation.  Roy reveals the true heir, and all is well.


J’onn’s younger brother T’omm makes his debut in this story.  Despite the destruction of Erdel’s machine many issues ago, J’onn has repaired it in this story.


He accidentally makes it bring his little brother to Earth.  Which is really a mind-blowing coincidence.


J’onn defeats some thieves, and T’omm helps him cover his identity.  The machine has only enough charge for one more teleportation, so J’onn sends his brother back home.

T’omm returns a few months down the road.




Detective 275 – Batman vs Zebra Man, and Diane Meade becomes John’s partner


An eye-bending cover for Detective 275 (Jan. 60), and a memorably bizarre villain, Zebra Man, in this story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.


Zebra Man has invented a machine that powers his body with line of magnetic energy, and uses this to stave off Batman while committing crimes.


Batman finds his hide-out, and gets charged up by the machine as well.  They are now equally matched, but Batman lacks the control belt the other uses, and cannot defeat him.


Finally, he lays a trap for Zebra Man, in a place Batman had already given a negative magnetic charge, which cancels out Zebra Man’s powers.

Although he does not appear again, Zebra Man is one of four Batman villains from this time who get recreated by Kobra in the 80s, part of Strikeforce Kobra that he sends after Batman and the Outsiders.


Diane Meade returns in this story, becoming John Jones’ partner.


Now that J’onn is openly a hero, he takes on the secret identity problems that provide soooo many stories their plots.  And Diane is thrust into the Lois Lane mould of always questioning John about being the Martian Manhunter.


And though he disproves her suspicions in this story, they rise again in later ones.

Detective 274 – Batman and the crazy old hermit, and Martian Manhunter vs Human Flame


Another dreadful cover for a not so awful Batman and Robin tale in Detective 274 (Dec. 59) by Sheldon Moldoff.


Batman and Robin trail four mobsters to a deserted island where they hide their money, and all five are confronted by a crazy old hermit, who prophecies their dooms.


And then, as one might expect, the various crime bosses meet their downfalls in ways that fit the prophecy.


Batman figures out it’s all an elaborate cover, that the final crime boss and the hermit were working together.  The boss was taking out his rivals, but in such a way that suspicion would not fall on him.


J’onn goes up against the Human Flame in this issue, an arsonist with a suit that sprays fire out of his nipples.


The Martian Manhunter displays yet another amazing power in this issue, creating sonic waves by snapping his fingers.  This would not be a normal part of his repertoire.


J’onn avoids the fire by burrowing undeground and lifting the Human Flame and his associate, and the very ground they are on, hauling them all off to prison.

The Human Fame stayed in prison for a very long time, emerging just before Final Crisis.

Detective 273 – Batman vs the Dragon Society, and the Martian Manhunter exposes himself


Such a terrible cover on Detective 273 (Nov. 59), and Sheldon Moldoff’s Batman and Robin story isn’t much better.


The story is framed as an address that Commissioner Gordon is giving the graduating class at the police academy.  He tells them of his and Batman’s attempts to break up a multi-city gang, whose members identities were kept secret, by use of really dumb looking dragon masks.


Moldoff tries something new with the fight behind the x-ray screen.  It may not come off as well as it could, but it does stand out in these years of mediocrity.


Batman infiltrates the gang, but he deception is exposed.  Fortunately, he had been working with Gordon, so the police were ready to bust in anyway.


Far more important is the Martian Manhunter story in this issue.  A Martian criminal, B’rett, lands on Earth, escaping justice on his home planet.


J’onn tracks him down, and the two wind up in battle, in public view.  In order to bring B’rett down, J’onn exposes him to fire, again in view of the police and crowds.


At the conclusion of the story, the Martian Manhunter formally meets the men he works with as John Jones anyway, but now the world at large knows he exists, and the Martian vulnerability to fire.

Also notable is that J’onn has the army shoot a missile to Mars, carrying B’rett, but does not ask for the same thing to be done for himself.

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